In some sense publishers are in the same boat as marketers when it comes to mobile media. Their position may be worse, in fact. They have to invest money and allocate resources well in advance of returns. But like marketers, they have to make the basic decision on what this medium will be worth, and when changes will occur.
If you are CBS and you have your hands on 63 March Madness games, perhaps the answer is a bit clearer. "That power to always be connected and stay tuned in and switch among any game -- that is where mobile is headed," Robert Gelick, senior vice president and general manager of CBS Mobile, said yesterday at OMMA Global in San Francisco. During a fascinating panel of publishers discussing their monetization plans and hopes, he explained that the $9.99 price point CBS put on its March Madness iPhone app seemed to just right for a lot of consumers. "It has only been out for a week," he said. "We don't release revenue numbers, but suffice to say we are very happy about where we are in the first week."
It was interesting to see how the range of publishers on this panel was exploring a diversified portfolio of models and using mobile to enter new markets. Local seems to be on everyone's lips. Heretofore national media brands are now thinking about the possibilities for leveraging location-based services and tapping that ad stream. Cheryl Lucanegro, senior vice president of advertising at Pandora, says her apps have just started working with uLocate to serve localized ad units into their app. ULocate is the parent company to Where, which I wrote about last week. They are aggregating local ad sales among several providers who have relationships with regional and local merchants.
Also new to local via mobile are the national magazines. Yaron Oren, Director, Mobile Strategy and Operations, Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S., is testing the local waters with an ELLE shopping app. "We see a big opportunity there," he said.
But, as Oren told me before the session, this is one of the places where mobile media introduces to publishers new ways of thinking about their markets. For a magazine world that generally conceived of their audiences and advertisers on a national basis, it can be a tectonic shift in attitudes. But think of the possibilities for brands like HFMUS's car books or any publisher's bridal titles. These are all "decision books" that drive people closer to purchase, which takes place locally.
It's also quite possible that mobile will unlock some mobile marketing dollars, especially in local retail, an area that was hesitant about investing in the Web. "Online was actually at odds with many [local retailers]" because the platform had such an easy and cheap alternative to retail, e-commerce, noted Oren. The hope is that local advertisers will see the direct connection between the mobile medium and driving real traffic into their front doors, in a way that was less direct and apparent in Web media.
Maybe so. But what was also very clear in yesterday's panel was how much the deep mobile thinkers at media companies see that the platform allows (or even urges) them to rethink relationships. Gelick seemed especially enthused by the more direct connection he now has with the consumer in a world of mobile Web, SMS and apps. "That relationship had been mediated, and now through the iPhone and Android and a series of other platforms, we can go in directly and establish a relationship" -- and also make sure others don't crowd in. "It is a way for people to participate and to stay with our brand instead of drifting to other brands," he said. Imagine that. Mass media companies starting to think about CRM.
For AP Mobile, the platform revives the paid content model because it helps the publisher test the audience more effectively. David Buckley, global director, advertising, AP, said that while the AP Mobile product is free and ad-supported, other models will be coming. Users will get greater depth when they pay, and multiple tiers and models can be developed because the audience will be your guide. "You may think that the CPMs in mobile are high, but if you are getting $9.99 a month and that customer is viewing 90 to 100 pages, that translates to a high CPM," he said. "Mobile provides us with the ability to segment the customers and get to see what they want to pay for."
Panel members also said they are finding mobile to be a very effective sales tool in the portfolio. "The most innovative campaigns now have something custom built for mobile," said Gelick. For one advertiser that attached itself to a reality series, CBS offered a mobile game with the chance to vote on which cast members would win the show's challenge.
When advertisers come in for this sort of buy, they need help building a unique mobile experience on which the user lands. Publishers are learning to monetize mobile by getting paid to mobilize their marketing clients. HFMUS's Oren added that for his magazines, mobile is valuable as a package. "The value is in tying mobile to online and print campaigns," he said. For clients who are looking for additional scale, HFMUS works with Quattro Wireless to extend their reach when they want to get additional breadth and also run on the magazine brand inventory.
For the old-media publishers who are making the investment in mobile, the needle appears to be moving in their direction at last. Many of the print and broadcast media had to be dragged onto the Web by their advertisers. There is an opportunity here for media to get back in front of change and do what they have done for generations: lead their marketing partners into the future, rather than simply follow them.